Soft drinks industry leaders have warned that a tax on fizzy drinks will not help tackle rising obesity levels and reiterated the financial burden it will place on cash-strapped shoppers.
The proposal, one of ten contained in a report published by The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, recommended increasing taxes on sugary drinks by at least 20% as part of a move to address the negative health consequences of poor diet.
However the British Soft Drinks Association cautioned against the proposal and said that a 20% tax on soft drinks - 10p out of every 60p can - already goes to the government in the form of VAT.
“We share the recognition that obesity is a major public health priority but reject the idea that a tax on soft drinks, which contribute just 2% of the total calories in the average diet, is going to address a problem which is about overall diet and levels of activity,” said BSDA director general Gavin Partington.
“Over the last 10 years, the consumption of soft drinks containing added sugar has fallen by 9% while the incidence of obesity has been increasing, and 61% soft drinks now contain no added sugar.”
Compiled by doctors, the ‘Measuring Up: The Medical Profession’s Prescription for the Nation’s Obesity Crisis’ report warned that current measures to tackle unhealthy eating were failing with one in three children overweight or obese by the age of nine.
Banning adverts featuring foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt before 9pm, introducing food labels that include calorie information for children and reducing fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres, were among the other proposals suggested.
“It’s now time to stop making excuses and instead begin forging alliances, trying new innovations to see what works and acting quickly to tackle obesity head on – otherwise the majority of this country’s health budget could be consumed by an entirely avoidable condition,” Professor Terence Stephenson, a paediatrician and AMRC chair said.
Last month The Food and Drink Federation spoke out after 60 organisations called for a new tax on fizzy drinks to be introduced in the next budget and warned that any potential move would “hit the poorest families the hardest.”
Partington added: “Soft drinks companies are also committing to further, voluntary action as part of the government’s Responsibility Deal Calorie Reduction Pledge…putting up taxes even further will put pressure on people’s purses at a time when they can ill afford it.”